You have finally decided that bedtime and night wakings have been hard enough for long enough. And naps are a wrestling match you feel like you just aren’t winning. Now you’re ready for sleep coaching and have decided you’re ready to see your child really sleep well — and to catch up on sleep yourself! You’re ready to hire — and work with — a sleep coach and you can’t wait to get started.
Your enthusiasm is a great first step. What else can you do to make sure your work with a sleep coach pays off and really works? Consider these tips to make the most of your sleep coaching session.
1. Perfect Timing
Make sure you start your sleep coaching when you’ll have time to give it your full attention. You should ideally have three weeks with no travel, no visitors, no major moves or construction before you start any plan to change your baby’s sleep.
Plan on starting sleep coaching within one week of your initial consultation. That way, you can be sure that the plan is using accurate information and details about how your child is sleeping now.
Many families find it easier to start their sleep coaching on a Friday night because both parents may be home for the weekend, making it easier to tag team the project and catch up on sleep during the day.
2. Take Notes
Before starting a sleep coaching plan, take notes about how your child is sleeping, eating, and even their behavior. The more information you have to share with your coach about what your family’s days and nights look like and about your child’s temperament, the easier it will be for her to make a sleep plan that really works for your family.
Be diligent about keeping a sleep log once you get started. Log details about when you put your baby down for a nap, how long it took for him to fall asleep, what you did or didn’t do to help him go to sleep or back to sleep. Do the same at bedtime and throughout the night.
If your child is under 18 months, consider logging feedings too. We’re all a little bleary when we aren’t getting enough sleep so set yourself up to take good notes. Keep a pad of paper next to your child’s bed or outside the door to their room and jot down quick things like what time they woke up and went back to sleep. Consider using a baby tracking app like Gentle Sleep — it even has free sleep content on it!
Make sure both parents and any care givers are all keeping good notes on how your sleep coaching plan is working. Be sure to share your notes with your coach as you go along, especially if you find yourself frustrated during the process or if you change anything about how you are using your sleep coaching plan.
3. Talk About It
Even if you and your partner are champing at the bit to start sleep coaching, or if you’re a single parent who wishes you’d hired a coach yesterday, it’s important to slow down long enough to know why you’re hiring a coach and what your goals are. Do you hope to get your baby sleeping 12 hours uninterrupted at night? Or do you want him to sleep in longer stretches but still be fed once or twice before morning? Give yourself and your partner a chance to answer the question “why are we hiring a sleep coach?” and “what do we want our child’s sleep to look like at the end of the process?” Are you both on the same page?
Many couples find themselves on different pages when it comes to sleep. If you and your partner have different goals for your child’s sleep or one of you is more prepared to start sleep coaching, you’re not alone.
Consistency is the single most important key to successful sleep coaching. Spend some time exploring your different feelings and finding strategies that make you both comfortable. In some cases it’s worth talking to a counselor to help you get on the same page before you start sleep coaching your child.
4. Work as a Team
Your child will learn new sleep habits quickest and best when you use a good sleep coaching plan consistently. Make sure that everyone who helps your baby or child get to sleep day or night works together by including them in the process.
Does your child have a nanny or babysitter that puts them down for naps during the day? Or does your child go to daycare while you work? It’s possible to have your sleep coach explain your sleep plan to them.
Talk through how you and your partner will use your sleep plan to make sure you are a united front before you get started. How will you respond to your baby’s crying when you put her to sleep at bedtime? Will one of you respond to all of her night wakings, or will you divide the night? It’s much easier to discuss and decide those things in daylight than in the wee hours of the night.
5. Check in With Your Pediatrician
While most sleep challenges in children and babies are behavioral and not medical, check in with your pediatrician before starting a sleep coaching plan. Review a few typical eating days with your doctor and ask how much they should be eating in 24 hours, given your child’s health and weight. Ask how many feedings she needs at night. Knowing this will help reduce your stress if you plan on weaning any night feedings.
It’s also essential to know that there are no underlying medical conditions such as: Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Restless Leg Syndrome, Periodic Limb Movement, and good ole ear infections. Any of these may interfere with your child’s sleep.
6. Cover the Basics
Set yourself and your child up for success by investing in a few basics to help create a sleep-friendly environment. Room darkening shades and a sound machine can help make a room dark and quiet.
Make sure your baby has diapers that will keep them dry overnight and jammies appropriate to the season.
Sleep coaching is hard work no matter how ready you are to get started. Using these recommendations can make a huge difference in whether your sleep coaching is a struggle or a super success! Need help finding a sleep coach in your area? Use the Gentle Sleep Coach registry to find the help you need.